Fried Onion Dip

Source: Amy Thielen Food NetworkImage 36

When my mom let me know that a Minnesota native had a new show on the Food Network, I knew I had to tune in.  I immediately started up the DVR and recorded her show.  Amy Thielen has such a great demeanor and represents our state well.  She seems humble and cooks with fresh, local ingredients which can be challenging at times when the snow flies.  I was looking for a little inspiration for an appetizer to bring to a Octoberfest party I was attending.   While surfing online for a recipe, I caught up on her show, America’s heartland.  In the episode I was watching, she made this incredible looking Fried Onion Dip.  That was all the inspiration I needed, onion dip seemed like a perfect appetizer for the party.

I doubled the ingredients below and started cooking.  While frying the onions totally smoked out my house, it was worth it.  The dip received rave reviews at the party and was gobbled up right away.  It has a delicious rich, savory flavor and the onions are smokey and don’t overpower the dip.  It was excellent and can even be made ahead and refrigerated!  Enjoy.

What you need: **Recipe from the Food  NetworkImage 41

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
  • Dash of cayenne pepper


  • First, clarify the butter so that you can fry the onions at high heat and put a very dark, almost burnt crust on them. (Clarify butter: Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it foams and browns. Remove from the heat. Tilt the skillet and carefully spoon off the foam, saving it in a small bowl. Pour the clear butter into another bowl, and pour the dark dregs at the bottom of the skillet into the bowl with the foam. Add the clear butter to a larger heavy skillet. Discard the butter foam and dregs.)
  • Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Fry the onions, flipping them now and then, until they’re dark on the edges, even black and crispy in spots, about 10 minutes.
    Image 40Image 39
  • Add the honey and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the vermouth, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • Put the sour cream and cream cheese in a mixing bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth. Finely chop the fried onions on a cutting board and add them, along with their pan juices, to the cream cheese mixture. Stir in the chives. Add the cayenne and season with salt.
    Image 37Image 38
  • Transfer to a small bowl and garnish with more chives.
    Image 36

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Back in college, my friends and I would take trips to Mazatlan, Mexico.  To say that weChicken Tortilla 7 had a little fun is a bit of an understatement.  We baked in the sun, talked to other college students from all across the U.S. and went to clubs I wouldn’t be caught dead in now.  At the time, it was the best thing ever!

Believe it or not, one of the highlights I remember was a chicken tortilla soup served at a tiny corner restaurant.  I feel like we went there almost every day for lunch.  They would serve the soup with all the fixings on the side – avocado, crispy tortilla strips, cheese, etc.  Once it was loaded up with the fixings, it was heaven in my mouth.  The salty soup combined with the creamy cheese and crunch tortilla strips made my day.

Since 2002, I have been on the hunt for a recipe that did this soup justice.  What I couldn’t put my finger on was what the broth was made of; chicken broth, onion broth, or something I had no clue about?  The other thing that made it amazing was the crumbly cheese that melted just enough but still kept in tact when dropped into the soup.  It wasn’t feta or goat cheese, but had a consistency similar to those if you mixed the two together.

After over 10 years of searching, I’m convinced I finally found a recipe that brings me back to those days.  Once again, Food and Wine Magazine came through.  I now know the broth is a chicken stock & tomato puree and the cheese is crumbled queso fresco found in the Mexican section at the grocery store.  Duh.  I can’t get over how similar this soup is to what we ordered in Mexico over 10 years ago.  Now if I got some blue hair extensions and put on my backless shirt with hot pink shorts, I might think I was in Mexico while slurping on this soup.  Oh the memories 🙂

Recipe Source: Food & Wine Magazine
Recipe by: Rene Ortiz

What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved
  • 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 6 corn tortillas, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 cups shredded chicken, from one 2 1/4-pound rotisserie chicken
  • Crumbled queso fresco, dried chile, avocado and cilantro leaves, for garnish

What you do:

  • In a saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened and starting to brown, 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chipotle chiles and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are very soft, 30 minutes.
    Roma Tomatoes

    Roma Tomatoes



  • Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil. Add half of the tortilla strips and fry over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the strips to paper towels. Season with salt. Repeat with the remaining strips.

    Tortilla Strips and Queso Fresco

    Tortilla Strips and Queso Fresco

  • Carefully ladle half of the soup into a blender and add half of the butter. Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a large saucepan. Repeat with the remaining soup and butter.Chicken Tortilla 4
  • Stir in the shredded chicken and gently reheat the soup. Season with salt.
  • Serve the soup in bowls, garnishing with queso fresco, chile, avocado, cilantro and tortilla strips.

Grilled Bread and Marinated Tomato Salad

Source: Food & Wine Magazine

What’s my inspiration?

I have eyed up the heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers Market for years.  I love tomatoes, but these little bad boys looked questionable.  They vary in color and the dark maroon ones look like they are overdone or rotten.  However, it takes quite a bit to scare me away from trying new foods so I picked up a bunch.   I used a recipe from the tried and true food and wine magazine.   This recipe was outstanding.  And the heirloom tomatoes were delicious!  The tasted slightly more sweet than a grape or cherry tomatoes.  I advise you run out and pick up a batch of these heirloom tomatoes before their season has passed.


Heirloom Tomato


  • I used crumbled feta cheese instead of ricotta salata.  I bet goat cheese would also be amazing.
  • Serve this with Tequila Lime Cajun Shrimp  for an impressive dinner

What you need:

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 loaf country bread (12 ounces), sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 bunches arugula (6 ounces each), stems discarded
  • 5 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (1 1/4 cups)

What you do:

  • On a cutting board, using the flat side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic clove to a paste with a pinch of salt; transfer to a large bowl.


  • Add the tomatoes, onion, vinegar and the 3/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture stand at room temperature, stirring a few times, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.
  • Light a grill. Brush the bread with olive oil and grill over high heat until toasted and lightly charred in spots, 1 minute per side. Let cool slightly, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Add the bread and arugula to the tomatoes along with the ricotta salata and toss to combine. Serve right away.

Shrimp with Spicy Chipotle Tomato Sauce

Source: Food & Wine by Rick Bayless

What’s my inspiration?

Love, love, love me some shrimp!!!  As per usual, food and wine magazine comes through.  What I particularly loved about this recipe is that it didn’t have nearly the amount of ingredients usually needed for a F&W recipe.  Also, it has a nice enough kick to make it interesting, but won’t burn your tongue either.  It was yummy served with some rice and grilled French bread.  Mmmm….

What you need:

  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1/4 cup Salsa Negra with Chipotle
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish

What you do:

  • In a blender, puree the diced tomatoes.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the tomato puree and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until very thick, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the Salsa Negra and 1/3 cup of water and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the shrimp with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly charred and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Drizzle the shrimp with the sauce, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Salsa Negra with Chipotle

Source: Food & Wine by Rick Bayless

What’s my inspiration?

Surprise, surprise…another food and wine magazine recipe. The only reason I actually made this was so I could make Shrimp with Spicy Chipotle Tomato Sauce. Turns out, it made more than I needed for that recipe and the extra sauce was UNREAL when added to ground beef for taco’s or as a steak marinade.  Next time, I plan to double or triple this recipe, freeze it in ice cube trays and use it whenever I want.  Give it a whirl, its fab!

This can be made and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce (from a 7-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, preferably unsulfured
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

What you do:

  • In a blender, combine the chipotle chiles with the molasses, balsamic vinegar, dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the water. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Strain the sweet chipotle puree through a fine strainer into a small saucepan, pressing on the solids with a spatula to extract as much of the puree as possible.
  • Simmer the chipotle sauce over moderately low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof rubber spatula, until it is very thick, pasty and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Remove the salsa from the heat. Stir in the soy sauce and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Serve the salsa negra hot or at room temperature.

Cream Cheese with Peach Kiwi Salsa

Source: Kraft Food

This recipe sounds a little odd at first glance, but it was quite popular with everyone I served it too at the most recent family gathering.  It is a little sweeter than most appetizers, but the jalapeño gave it a nice kick.  It was really quick and easy to make too.

What you need:

  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1 peach – diced
  • 1 kiwi – peeled, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper – seeds removed, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion – diced
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup light zesty Italian Dressing
  • Wheat Ritz Crackers or Reduced Fat Wheat Thins

What you do:

  • Spread cream cheese onto bottom of a pan
  • Combine all remaining ingredients except crackers; spoon over cream cheese
  • Serve with crackers

Tiki Snack Mix

What’s my inspiration?
Do you ever ponder for days and days what you are going to bring to a party?  All of a sudden, the day has arrived and you still haven’t made a decision?  I certainly hope I’m not the only one.  Part of my problem is that I always want to bring something new, different and fun.  Challenge myself, you know?  I stumbled on this recipe during a last-minute attempt to bring something rad to a friends housewarming party.  I mean, it was a brand new home, they deserved something amazing right?  This recipe was perfect.  Sweet, gooey, salty and crunchy.  Sign me up.   One might think pineapple and bacon might be an odd combo, trust me, it’s as awesome as the bacon caramel bar recipe if you had a chance to try that.

So next time you have an event to go to and you want to impress with an easy snack, give this a try.  Your contribution will be the **STAR** next to a buffet full of chips and cheese.

Serve with: Fresca Margaritas and Grilled Shrimp Tostadas for dinner

What you need:

  • 8 thick slices of meaty bacon
  • 3 cups salted roasted peanuts
  • 4 candied pineapple rings, cut into 1/3-inch triangles
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
What you do:
  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • Arrange the bacon in a single layer on a rack set over a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Drain on paper towels and cut into 1/2-inch strips.
  • In a bowl, toss the bacon with the peanuts, pineapple, sesame seeds, soy sauce, honey and cayenne. 
  • Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once, until the bacon is browned.

  • Season the mix with salt and stir occasionally until cool, then serve.